Uzbekistan: Development of human rights movement under deficit of objectivity, equity and justice

Report and recommendations for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe

General background
Human rights movement in Uzbekistan is on the verge of survival, it is oppressed everywhere by the authorities of any rank. Human rights activists enjoying confidence of the population and international observers, experience total control of the law-enforcement agencies. Their open criticism of the weaknesses of national mechanisms of human rights protection and violations of the standards of international law is perceived by the authorities as a crime.
According to the data available to our organization, at present time 17 human rights activists serve sentences in prisons on trumped up criminal charges; over the years, more than 50 members of human rights organizations were prosecuted under administrative or criminal legislation; 75 civil society activists were forced to leave the country. Emigration process  of human rights activists became most active in 2005 and is growing in intensity.
When any form of public expression of disagreement with the official doctrine occurs the Repressive State apparatus responds with torture. According to IGIHRDU[1], andThe Club of Ardent Hearts”, non-governmental organization, about 1000 employees of the law enforcement agencies and medical institutions were involved in practices of torture. Methods of applying physical and moral pressure of these butchers are very refined. Any attempts to prosecute the officials responsible turn against the victims and human rights activists.
Biased estimate by international monitors of current situation actually encourages targeted reprisals against country’s human rights movement representatives by the Uzbek government. This results in sheer moral and physical exhaustion of the human rights workers and defeat of hopes for justice of all victims of human rights violations.
Estimate of the OSCE observers’ reports

The director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) Janez Lenarcic illogically came to conclusion that Uzbekistan stepped up  in development of human rights in the country. In his analysis, he notes that:
improvement of conditions of detention. This conclusion can hardly be considered objective as there is still no public control of respect for human rights at places of imprisonment, the authorities refuse to cooperate with non-governmental organizations and the penal system remains subordinated to the Ministry of the Interior[2]. The fact that 200 deaths of prisoners occurred for the last 2 years, as stated by the IGIHRDU, destroys any illusion of improvement;
- abolition of the death penalty. Officially the death penalty is not applied in the country. But in fact those sentenced to life imprisonment are doomed for suspended death. The prison for prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment was constructed on the grounds of Soviet test chemical weapons test facility. Inhuman condition of detention is worsened further by severe climatic conditions in the zone of Aral ecological crisis. Keeping the prisoners there itself would amount to torture as staying in such constitutes carries unrecoverable health risk;
- release of some human rights activists. Individual cases of release of political prisoners, considering respective context, at best, can be classified as manipulating the observers: when some political prisoners go free under pressure of international community the available place in prison remains free a short while – it is occupied soon by other victim of arbitrary treatment. For several years the regime uses all possible means of reprisals against human rights activists, prosecuting them, depriving of liberty for long terms. Cases of forced testimonies against oneself and one's colleagues became more frequent. All this thumbs the society down and restricts flow of reliable information;
- active cooperation of the OSCE and Uzbekistan on human rights. In Uzbekistan the absolute majority of human rights activists perform their activities informally. For instance, organizations The Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan (created in 1992) and Mothers Against Death Penalty and Torture (created in 2000) made unsuccessful attempts to get registration in the Ministry of Justice.

It is worthy of noting that in the period of active cooperation of the OSCE with Uzbekistan in field of human rights, the human rights activists lost their right to appear as social defenders therefore right to participate in criminal proceedings. Prior to this change, a human rights activist had a right to present evidence, take part in studying the evidence and perform other duties of an attorney.

Our organization observes that it is getting harder and harder to access the alternative sources of information on dismaying situation of human rights in Uzbekistan. It is hard to understand why the broadcast time of “Deutsche Welle”, International French Radio (RFI), “Voice of America and other western mass media is degreased. Internet is accessible hardly to one tenth of population in Uzbekistan. Moreover access to the internet resources with content unwanted by the authorities is being blocked by the security service. So population in Uzbekistan is deprived of the last breath of fresh air in close informational atmosphere of the Central Asian regimes. The authorities still deny broadcast permission in the country to the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and BBC World Service

Uzbek human rights activists face severe problems not only because they have to work in tough conditions but also are struggling to survive. Much to our regret the OSCE and European Union follow cynical pragmatics of geopolitics instead of morals of the Bill of Rights.
Reprisals against human rights activists

The imprisoned human rights activists are in the most difficult condition. Agzam Turgunov, director ofMazlumhuman rights center, who is sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment,  in his recent letter wrote: “Here it is the most difficult to survive and remain a human able to face reality no matter what…”. Activists in custody suffer particular oppression for openly defending the ideals of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. By all possible prohibited measures they are forced to admit offenses alleged to them. Many of them are physically exhausted, suffering from tuberculosis and other serious diseases. (The list of imprisoned human rights activists is attached).

On August 28, 2009, the Senate of the Parliament of Uzbekistan adopted a decree on amnesty.  Many of prisoners from the list have ground for claiming for premature release according to Paragraph 3 of the document (on release of persons who suffer severe diseases, which makes it impossible to serve a sentence). Though, we know it for sure that before the act of amnesty was issued many of them had been charged with violation of the discipline by prison administrative decisions. Some of them had been prosecuted under Article 221 of the Criminal Code of Uzbekistan (On disobedience to lawful requests of prison administration).

The crusade against human rights activists in continued since the year 2004. Analysis of evolution of treatment of human rights activists by the authorities gives us a picture that the policy is purposefully pursued:

In 2004 main mechanism of oppression against the protesting, consisted of intimidation and organized attacks on human rights activists who were later accused of alleged acts of hooliganism, notwithstanding being victims of such acts planned by the authorities.
In 2005 all leading human rights activists advocated the request of the European Union concerning carrying out international investigation of the Andijan events by a team of experts including independent ones. The response of the authorities were accusations of blackmail, economic crime and defamation. All of this was done aiming at discrediting the human rights movement.
In 2006 with the purpose of suppressing all efforts of dissemination of materials with objective estimation of the events in Andijan human rights activists and other civil society representatives were accused of dissemination of prohibited literature and crossing the border illegally.
In the years 2007-2008, during the period of actively intensified EU-Uzbekistan dialog on human rights, arrests of human rights activists accused of defamation continued, torture and made up accusations against political prisoners proceeded. Simultaneously pressure on their relatives aimed at forcing the prisoners to write to the president of the country petitions asking forgiveness increased.
In 2009 we received reports concerning falls accusations against human rights activists related to derogation of the foundations of the constitutional system and other grave offenses. During pre-trial investigation they are denied a lawyer.
It is impossible to underestimate the geopolitical position of Uzbekistan. And the authorities of the country are well aware of it. Short-term gain from arranged cooperation of the West with Karimov’s regime betrays slim hope of population of Uzbekistan for justice.
Recommendations for the OSCE and European Union

Human rights activists try to inform parties of the dialog on human rights between the OSCE, European Union and the government of Uzbekistan to attain conditions for stable legal system to be created.

1. Keep the issue of release of human rights activists who suffered for their activism in the agenda of the Dialog until all of them are released;
2. In the context of implementation of the decision of the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE of 2007 concerning human rights activists and national human rights institutions:

·      To draw attention to the fact that the Decree of the Senate of Oliy Madjlis of the Uzbekistan of 28 August 2009, “On amnesty in celebration of the eighteenth anniversary of the declaration of independence of the Republic of Uzbekistan” caused: a) a tide of reprisals against imprisoned civil society activists, especially of those who eligible  for release according to the provision of the Article 3 (on the release of persons who suffer severe diseases, which makes it impossible to serve a sentence); b) intentional refusal of proper medical aid and ignoring obvious facts of deterioration of health of imprisoned civil society activists;

·      To support human rights defenders who sustain their activities in circumstances of their threatened security;

3. Ensure visit of the Committee of the “Red Cross” to imprisoned human rights activists whose state of health calls for special concern. The list is attached;

4. Promote adoption of legislation regulating law enforcement bodies of the country in performing their duties in Uzbekistan, such as: a) the Law on Militia of the Republic of Uzbekistan; b) the Law on the National Security Service of Uzbekistan; c) the Law on Criminal Investigation Activities of the Republic of Uzbekistan;

5. Insist on adoption of the Law on civil control of respect for human rights in detention to meet the obligations under the Helsinki agreement, adopted by the government of Uzbekistan;

6 Register human rights organizations of Uzbekistan.

[1] IGIHRDU — Initiative group of independent human rights defenders of Uzbekistan
[2]The Central Administration of Executing Punishments is subordinated to the Ministry of Interior providing fertile ground for the practice of torture against the convicted. It is appropriate to hand over this department to the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Uzbekistan which does not comprise the activities to detect and investigate crime.